Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is an unapologetic, over-the-top kinetic fantasy. Everything is big (Klipspringer plays a castle-sized organ, not a piano), loud (the deservedly much-hailed soundtrack delights), and bursting with color. The camera zooms, twitches, leaps and dances through a roaring feast of 1920s decadence and despair. It also relentlessly pushes in on the titular character: self-made myth Jay Gatsby. And that is the reason you should see the film.
In the midst of all the swooping 3D (meh) and exquisitely detailed sets (woot!), Leonardo DiCaprio’s depiction of Gatsby is sensitive and real. Just as Fitzgerald introduces us to the mask Gatsby presents to the world then peels it away page by page, DiCaprio and Luhrmann start with Gatsby’s facade (that famous smile, lit by fireworks) and then let it fall away scene by scene. We see the longing, the panic, the joy (what’s this? DiCaprio laughing on screen?), the fear, the anger, and most importantly, the hope. In short, they get Gatsby, and they get him right.
A nuanced coming of age story with a few epic bends, Jeff Nichols’s third feature, Mud, is both the story of every kid and this one kid: Ellis, played with remarkable vulnerability by Tye Sheridan, whom you might recognize from Tree of Life. Ellis is a 14-year-old river kid who faces troubles both common (crushes and domestic uncertainty) and uncommon (a sunburnt island-squatter—Mud—offers Ellis and his pal Neckbone a deal they can’t refuse).
It’s been a week since I saw writer/director Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines, and I’ve been puzzling out how he created such an immersive film ever since. With my notebook and constant (over) analysis, I tend to watch and deconstruct movies at the same time. But this film pulled me under fast, leaving me to figure out why after the lights came up.
Cianfrance’s background is the first clue: Documentaries outweigh fiction on his resume, though he’s most well-known for 2010′s heartbreaker Blue Valentine, starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. The non-fiction practices of gathering moments as they happen and storytelling by way of context (as opposed to highly constructed dialogue) served The Place Beyond the Pines well. We get to know these characters by their clothes (oft unflattering), their houses, their sad tattoos, how they move, how others react to them. And in a story that unfolds over almost two decades, we only see the needed moments. There’s no fat to distract, only one loaded look, layered interaction or can’t-be-unmade decision after another.
If you like your twists uncomplicated with heart or soul, you’ll love this flick. As an exercise in compelling confusion, this mind-heist movie by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) works. The shooting is stylish, and the acting is intriguing. As Simon, James McAvoy’s baby blues convince you that a bump on the head really did leave him with no memory of where he left that stolen painting. Vincent Cassel delights as Franck, the leader of the scrambling gang of thieves. (If you take one thing away from Trance, make it a resolution to watch Cassel’s back catalogue, especially 1995′s Cannes favorite Le Haine.) And Rosario Dawson appropriately mesmerizes as the hypnotherapist, Elizabeth, hired to retrieve the memory of the robbery from Simon’s troubled mind.
The plot ducks and weaves entertainingly. Early on in the film, I guessed the who but not the how, which let me feel smart for guessing correctly while leaving me with enough questions to be interested until the end. Interested, but not satisfied: (SMALL SPOILER) The beginning of the movie had a playful wit that quickly darkens; when the grimness suddenly flips to sunny at the end—upbeat soundtrack and all—the tonal shift felt un-earned.
We got dressed up for a Gatsby preview and party in KC!
Chicago-based marching band Mucca Pazza entertains before a screening at the 2013 True/False Film Fest.
If I have an excuse for taking so long to post about the True/False Film Fest (February 28 – March 3 in Columbia, MO), it’s this: I just didn’t want it to be over. In its ten years of bringing the best documentaries (and kinda documentaries) to the heartland, True/False has created an army of fanatics who talk about the fest with fervor usually reserved for barbecue and college teams ’round these parts.
I attended last year and was converted to the event’s infectious spirit immediately. The fest is designed to break down the walls between filmmakers and film-goers. Each screening has a filmmaker Q&A, parties mix fans and documentarians, and the compact festival traffic patterns ensure you’ll run into the person responsible for that fantastic film you just saw in line for coffee or a slice of Shakespeare’s pizza. The fest also seems calibrated for filmgoers’ maximum happiness. “Buskers” serenade you while you wait for films to start, hundreds of friendly volunteers keep things running smoothly, and an ingenius “Q” system helps latecomers get into sold-out films.
Ok. *Deep breath* I have a confession to make: I did not love this movie. I’ve put off writing about this film for almost three months, and now it’s time to come clean. Please argue with me in the comments section if you love it—and know that the Academy clearly agrees with you. (But commenter David H. doesn’t.)
I think I procrastinated writing this post for so long because I wanted the reasons for my dislike of the octo-nominated movie to be more complicated. But I haven’t read the novel by Matthew Quick for an in-depth literary analysis. I don’t really have much to say as far as social commentary on mental illness goes. All I’ve got is this:
Maybe you’re a half of a content pair who believes love should be celebrated every day…without so much emphasis on buying stuff. Maybe you’re currently flying solo and loving your independence…and hating how Heart Day enthusiasts assume you’ll be watching Sleepless in Seattle and sobbing tonight. (I mean Sleepless is great; sobbing, not so much.) Maybe you’re a mysterious stranger with serious stunt driving skills who breaks out of a hermit-ish existence to help his beautiful neighbor…knowing there will be price to pay.
Yep, I’m suggesting you watch Drive today, in celebration of the international day of lovey-dovey-ness. Here’s why the 2011 Nicolas Winding Refn-directed, Gosling-starring wheeled thriller is a great Valentine’s Day choice.
I’m really hoping to get a break from unpacking to go see the film Steven Soderbergh has said will be his last. Soderbergh’s work is always, always interesting, whether he’s going indie arthouse (Che; Sex, Lies and Videotape) or blowing up the box-office with smart takes on popular genres (Oceans 11-13, Erin Brockovich,Magic Mike). (Yes, Magic Mike was a smart film, and a surprisingly moralistic one. It’s a fascinating gender flip on the hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold trope. I’ll write about that some time.) With Side Effects, Soderbergh picked a great team to go out on. The screenplay is written by previous Soderbergh collaborator Scott Z. Burns (Contagion, The Informant!), and it stars Rooney Mara (The Social Network, The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo), Channing Tatum, Jude Law and Catherine Zeta Jones.
The story is a pharmacological thriller of sorts, focusing on the unforeseen consequences a new prescription drug has on a young woman’s life. The film currently has an 82% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Peter Travers, for Rolling Stone, writes “Side Effects is a hell of a thriller, twisty, terrific and packed with surprises you don’t see coming.”
The Valentine’s Day movie-going season is upon us, for worse or for worse. Fortunately, the first lovey-dovey date film I have to announce features brain-eaters. Warm Bodieshas a couple other things going for it, too. First, it’s directed and adapted (from the Isaac Marion novel) by Jonathan Levine, who was behind one of my favorites from 2011, 50/50. Secondly, it stars the charming (and fully grown up) Nicholas Hoult, who I’ve been following sinceAbout a Boy. And, as mentioned, zombies. Can love bridge the undead-notyetdead gap? I am really looking forward to finding out. Rotten Tomatoes has the unique rom-com at 73% right now. The New York Times‘s Manohla Dargis writes, “‘Warm Bodies’ is an improbable romance sweetened with appealing performances and buoyed by one of the better cute meets in recent romantic comedy…”